I am a big fan of my Oklahoma City Thunder. My wife and I have been enjoying the last half of the season through a friend who sold us his two season tickets at Christmas time. It was the perfect gift for my wife, with the added benefit that I get to tag along.
The entire Thunder organization puts on a great show. There is always an electric atmosphere with lights, videos, dancers and entertainers, as well as some of the greatest basketball talent on the face of the planet with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, just to name just a few. Occasionally, some other great talent makes an appearance on the home court, too.
The biggest surprise to me has been watching the Oklahoma City Thunder pre-game rituals. People at home, watching on television, rarely get to see what is happening during the pre-game. The activity on the Thunder bench and sideline has been the most entertaining part of the games for me. In fact, it has been one of the most entertaining dances, bump and shimmy moves by a group of grown men I have ever seen.
What is it about these rituals that are so entertaining and so important to these million dollar athletes? It is obvious after just watching a few games that this team is a family and these rituals are a demonstration that they genuinely care about each other.
Most of us teach our young children the art of the high-five early in their lives. Whether it is a high-five after they make a basket on their Nerf basketball goal, they make a happy plate by eating all of their food, or they make a significant deposit in the toilet, we teach them that one reward is to have some fun and give their parents a high-five.
The high-five ritual rewards and connects two people to an achievement of some kind. It is a shared celebration of success.
The members of the Thunder team have taken this to the ultimate high-five level. Instead of a high-five they share a Thunder-Shake, Thunder-Dance, Thunder-Shrug, Thunder-Roll or a Thunder-Bump. All of these are a special connection between player and team. Each is a display of understanding each other’s sacrifices of being in the game of professional basketball.
This demonstrates their appreciation of each other’s commitment to being separated from family, enduring road trip after road trip, hotel after hotel, as well as the physical and mental pain they experience in striving to reach the ultimate goal of becoming an NBA Champion. As a fan, we rarely understand what it takes to endure and excel in such a long season of professional sports.
Watching this team makes me proud. Not only because of their success in the games and a great season record, but because they show that they love the game and each other.
It makes me proud when they cheer louder than the crowd after one of their teammates makes a great play on the court. These guys are off the bench, yelling encouragement and showing excitement. The starters cheer just as loud for their sub as their sub cheers for them.
Every sports nut knows that team chemistry is critical to having a championship team. The Oklahoma City Thunder team goes above and beyond team chemistry. They are connected at the heart.
Their demonstrations of child-like excitement on the sideline, shows me and thousands of other fans that these guys, along with their coaches, are champions.
To show my support for this talented and gifted group of players and coaches, I am going to encourage our fans to adopt other fans that surround their seats with their own Thunder high-five ritual. I am calling it the “Thunder Up Shake & Bake.”
Bump, dance, shrug, jump, belly flop or do whatever strikes you and your surrounding ticket holders. What better way to show our Thunder team that we are connected to them and love them.
Our opponents will wonder if the whole place has gone crazy. But when they begin to understand what they are seeing, they will see that we are a city, team and a group of fans that are all connected together in one unifying goal of becoming NBA Champions.
The playoffs are here. Let’s all do the “Thunder Up Shake & Bake.”
Jerry Wright is a NewsOK contributor, an ordained minister, author and business leader. He also serves as a speaker and venue moderator at one of America’s largest Christian men’s gatherings at Oklahoma’s Falls Creek “Rewired” conference.
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